Open Budget Meeting, Bangladesh | © Helvetas Bangladesh

Governance & Civic Space

© Helvetas Bangladesh

Helvetas and our local partners support the empowerment of citizens to raise their voices, claim their rights, and to critically engage in decision-making processes. Amidst authoritarian trends and shrinking civic space, we support the recognition of civil society as development actors in their own right.  At the same time, we strengthen the capacities of national and local government institutions so that they can fulfill their duties and provide public services in a gender-responsive, pro-poor and efficient manner that ensures public decision-making processes are participatory and inclusive, particularly for women and youth.

Why governance matters

In recent years, countries around the world have made considerable progress in good governance by establishing democratic and often decentralized systems of governance, developing government capacities and empowering citizens to partake in policy processes — all in alignment with SDG 16’s call for inclusive societies and effective and accountable governments.

Despite this positive development, access to quality public services still remains out of reach for millions of poor and marginalized women and men. Poverty, inequality and social injustice is increasing in fragile states where government capacity is low and state institutions are only partly accepted. Governance structures are further challenged by growing urbanization and exodus from rural areas, high youth unemployment rates, climate change and the scramble for scarce natural resources, and latent and armed conflicts.

Additionally, in many of the contexts where Helvetas works there are increasing limitations on the civic space and the environment where civil society can organize collective action, enter into dialogue with governments, propose policy changes, implement development initiatives, and speak out on behalf of poor and disadvantaged women and men.

What we do


For many poor and disadvantaged women and men, political participation at the local level is the most important means for influencing decisions and developing their communities. Helvetas aims to foster relationships of trust, mutual respect and social cohesion at the local level between citizens, civil society, the private sector and the state. This is central to our efforts to bring about systemic change by raising people’s voice and awareness of their rights and responsibilities, strengthening civil society organizations to become facilitators of rights-based development, and supporting public institutions in delivering quality public services.

Decentralized public service provision

The devolution of decision-making power and resources is a necessary and complementary process to strengthening and deepening local governance. Helvetas concentrates on national pro-poor policies and improved framework conditions that will lead local authorities to become more responsive and accountable to local community needs and to manage local resources in a more transparent and participatory manner. Our rights-based interventions support inclusive decision-making processes and oversight mechanisms that aim to improve gender-responsive public services, ensure the sustainable funding and management of quality services, and to create better legal and institutional frameworks that specify the conditions of their delivery.

Sectoral Governance

Governance in its broadest definition looks at how decisions are being made and how those decisions are being implemented with efficient and socially just allocation of available resources. We build on existing principles of good governance and a rights-based approach that cuts across all working areas to ensure our country programs approach governance in a consistent and coherent manner.

© Helvetas
Example Albania: authorities that consider themselves as service providers for citizens enjoy greater public confidence. © Helvetas
© Helvetas
Nowadays people can contact their local goverment offices for different services directly online. Municipalities and town councils provide computer facilities for this purpose. © Helvetas
© Helvetas
In the village of Kolloleq (Kosovo) the Civic Forum will decide which project is to be realized © Helvetas

What we offer

  • Expertise in strengthening local governance processes by empowering people through raising awareness of rights and responsibilities and strengthening their confidence and capacities to meaningfully engage in and influence decision-making processes that affect their lives.
  • Supporting public institutions on all state levels to fulfill their responsibilities, find political responses to existing challenges, deliver quality public services, and respond to citizens needs while adhering to good governance principles.
  • Experience working with local public administrations and executives (e.g., mayors), as well as local councils and elected representatives.
  • Supporting participatory and inclusive decision-making processes on the use and distribution of local public resources, with a particular focus on local development planning and monitoring.
  • Protecting and reclaiming the civic space by mobilizing and strengthening local collective action and building up civil society organizations, alliances and networks — in particular, their relationship with their constituencies and their capacities to engage in evidence-based advocacy and policymaking.
  • Geographical coverage: Our advisors based in the Global South and in Switzerland provide technical support to projects in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Contact our team

Our multilingual advisory team offers wide-ranging thematic expertise and has in-depth experience in navigating complex processes. Helvetas’ work builds on over 60 years of experience in more than 30 countries.

Contact our experts for governance

Selected projects

Helvetas develops and guides projects to be rights-based, oriented towards systemic change and adaptive to disruptions such as authoritarian trends, pandemics, fragility and populist rhetoric. We support our partners in effectively organizing projects and processes and assist local authorities to better assume their responsibilities.

© Helvetas
Laos Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Fostering Civic Engagement

© Helvetas / Simon Opladen
Guatemala WASH & Water Governance

Good Governance Makes for Good Water

© Helvetas
Pakistan Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Economic Prospects for Peace and Stability

© Helvetas / Bruna Fossati
Sri Lanka Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Young People on Course for Reconciliation

© Helvetas
Tajikistan Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Justice for All

Albania Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Building Confidence in Local Government

© Helvetas / Armand Habazaj
Albania, Serbia Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Social Sciences for a Better Society

© Helvetas
Tajikistan Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Water for Sustainable Development

© Helvetas
Bhutan Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Partnership for Diverse Civil Society Actions

Bangladesh_CSO-LA_5 | © Julia Thienhaus / Helvetas
Bangladesh Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Strengthening Capacities of the Disadvantaged

© Helvetas
Nepal Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Making Labor Migration an Informed Choice

© Helvetas
Kyrgyzstan Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Public service improvement in Kyrgyzstan

© Helvetas
Kyrgyzstan Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Contributing to a More Cohesive Society in Kyrgyzstan

Kosovo Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Building a Democratic Kosovo

© Water for food
Global Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Tackling Corruption in the Water Sector

© HelvetasBhutan
Bhutan Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Bringing Decision-Making to Local Communities

© Helvetas
Guatemala Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Entrepreneurship in the Guatemalan Highlands

Sri Lanka Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

A journey towards a Human Trafficking Free Sri Lanka

Open History Exhibition Dawei | © Helvetas Myanmar
Myanmar Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Open History: Arts for Peace

Serbia Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

ACT for a Stronger Civil Society

Myanmar Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

For a Pluralistic, Inclusive and Peaceful Society

© Helvetas
Vietnam Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Strengthening Land Rights of Ethnic Minorities